MLS Defensive Player of the Week: Week 3 – Montreal defender’s near perfect performance

For every week of the 2018 MLS season, MLSGB will award two Player of the Week accolades to the previous gameweek’s standout performers. We will highlight one star attacking player, as well as the leading defensive performer from the last round of fixtures. The Attacking Player of the Week award can be won by strikers, wingers and advanced midfielders. While the Defensive Player of the Week award can be won by goalkeepers, defenders and defensive midfielders.

Week 3 saw teams find their defensive edge. Although there was still plenty of attacking action to enjoy, there were six clean sheets from the nine games. With Week’s 1 and 2 providing just three clean sheets combined – there has been an increase in standout performances from the defensive positions.

One man who put in a near-perfect performance was Montreal Impact’s MLS debutant Rod Fanni. The signing of the experienced French centre-back has surprised some, given that he is now 36 but he silenced any doubters in Week 3 and that’s why he is the MLSGB Defensive Player of the Week.. It was a memorable occasion for Montreal, who beat their rivals, and current MLS Cup winners, Toronto in the 401 Derby.

As you can see above, the stats really do speak for themselves. Fanni made four interceptions, which was the second highest on the field. Of his five clearances, four of those were headers, which highlights his impressive timing and ability in the air.

While Fanni made just the one tackle, his passing statistics were very strong. With an accuracy of 94%, the debutant completed 31 of his 33 attempted passes.

An in-depth look at Rod Fanni’s performance in Montreal’s 1-0 win over Toronto FC in Week 3 (stats via @StatsZone app)

The image above gives further support to show just how well Fanni played. Four of his five clearances (green circles) came in the box (two clearances in the six-yard box overlap).

Fanni’s four inceptions (green diamonds) came within the final third of the pitch, where he was key in breaking up Toronto attacks, an area they are particularly dangerous in with long-range shots.

The Frenchman also made nine ball recoveries (green +’s) showing he was quick to snuff out Toronto’s usual dominance in attacking positions.

Don’t miss – MLS Attacking Player of the Week: Week 3

Fanni has made an impressive start to life in MLS and he will be hoping to put in consistent performances like this on a weekly basis. If he can add that to the Montreal backline they will be in good standing moving forward this season.

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MLS Player of the Week: Week 8 – Ethan Finlay

Columbus Crew started the season slowly with just one win in their first five games, but they have now won two on the bounce and look in fine shape, with Ethan Finlay picking up this week’s MLSGB MLS Player of the Week award.

Finlay scored two and grabbed an assist in Saturday’s 4-1 win against Philadelphia Union at MAPFRE Stadium.

The 24-year-old winger has looked good so far this campaign and he’ll be delighted to have picked up his first goals of the season to help the Crew extend their unbeaten run to four.

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They sit fourth in the Eastern Conference, just three points behind New England Revolution and DC United who share the top spot, and face DC in their next outing on Saturday night.

Finlay will hope to pick up where he left off in that game and his statistics from Saturday’s game against the Union make for fine reading.

Ethan Finlay's statistics vs. Philadelphia Union (Stats via WhoScored.com)

Ethan Finlay’s statistics vs. Philadelphia Union (Stats via WhoScored.com)

The pacey American scored from both of his shots, and completed 93% of his passes in a brilliant display that will have filled Crew fans with delight.

Finlay is now second in the MLS assists charts with four, only one behind Sporting Kansas City’s Benny Feilhaber.

The improving Columbus star scored 11 goals with seven assists in 29 games last season but is on track to build on those numbers after a fine start to the season.

What did you make of Ethan Finlay’s performance this week? Did he deserve to be named as MLS Player of the Week?

MLS Player of the Week: Week 7 – Sebastian Giovinco

Toronto FC have not started the new season well. They beat the Vancouver Whitecaps on opening day but have lost four straight games since, and Saturday saw them lose 3-2 to FC Dallas in another disappointing result.

One positive for the Reds was the performance of Sebastian Giovinco though as the Italian playmaker brought Toronto back into the game with two goals in the final ten minutes.

They may have still lost the game but the two goals were pure class. Many will hope that the performance of Giovinco was his breakout game and that he can kick on and lead the team to some more victories now after a slow start.

WATCH: Giovinco’s brace against FC Dallas on Saturday (via MLS on YouTube):

The ‘Atomic Ant’ now has three goals and two assists in five games and it’s no fault of his that the Reds are struggling at this early stage.

Defensively, Toronto have a lot to work on, but the attacking core of Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco and Michael Bradley should see the Reds turn things around sooner rather than later.

As well as his two goals, Giovinco completed 89% of his passes, with one key pass and had a total of nine shots in a great display despite defeat.

Sebastian Giovinco's statistics from loss at FC Dallas (Stats via WhoScored.com)

Sebastian Giovinco’s statistics from loss at FC Dallas (Stats via WhoScored.com)

If the 28-year-old attacker can perform like that on a weekly basis, it’s unlikely Toronto will lose many more games.

The Reds now look to next weekend when they’ll face Orlando City in their sixth straight road game to open the new campaign.

Toronto’s first home match will come on May 10 against the Houston Dynamo and once they can play in front of their own fans, things should improve.

What did you make of Sebastian Giovinco’s performance on Saturday? Did he deserve to be named as our Player of the Week?

MLS Player of the Week: Week 4 – Ike Opara

Not all of Major League Soccer’s stars were in action this weekend as international call-ups decimated squads across the league but a man who carried his side in Week 4 was Sporting Kansas City’s Ike Opara.

Opara got his second goal of the season in the 1-0 win away at New York City FC and put in another commanding display to help Sporting KC get their first win of the season.

Defensive partner Matt Besler created Opara’s goal from a long throw-in and the powerful centre-back rised above everyone to head in what proved to be the winner in the 13th minute.

Ike Opara rises above everyone to score against NYCFC (Photo: ROBERT SABO/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Ike Opara rises above everyone to score against NYCFC (Photo: ROBERT SABO/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Opara has stepped up to replace Aurelien Collin in the heart of the Sporting Kansas City defence and looks like one of the league’s best defenders at this early stage of the season.

He made more interceptions and blocks than any other player on the pitch in Sporting KC’s win at NYCFC on Saturday night, and also made 13 clearances – an amount matched by Besler.

Ike Opara's statistics vs. NYCFC (Stats via WhoScored)

Ike Opara’s statistics vs. NYCFC (Stats via WhoScored)

Opara also won more headers than anyone else at Yankee Stadium and his aerial dominance looks likely to be a huge asset for Sporting KC throughout the season.

He is Sporting’s top goalscorer at this early stage of the campaign and will look to build on his commanding displays when the club face the Philadelphia Union next weekend.

Ike Opara’s goal against NYCFC (via MLS on YouTube):

How impressed were you with Ike Opara this weekend? Who was your Player of the Week?

MLS Player of the Week: Week 3 – Bradley Wright-Phillips

The third week of the new MLS season is wrapped up and in the books so it’s time to pick our Player of the Week. This week’s award goes to New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips who put in an unstoppable display in the Red Bulls’ home opener to see of DC United 2-0.

Wright-Phillips got his first goal of the season in the first-half and then teed up Lloyd Sam for the second goal of the game to seal a first league win of the season against last season’s Eastern Conference toppers.

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BWP tied the single-season goalscoring record in MLS last season with 27 goals but much of the talk through the offseason was about how he would cope with the loss of Thierry Henry, who provided the Englishman with so many chances last year.

Well, early signs suggest it’s the same old Bradley Wright-Phillips and he will hope to replicate the display he put in against DC United for much of the season.

Bradley Wright-Phillips' statistics from the 2-0 win against DC United (Stats via Squawka)

Bradley Wright-Phillips’ statistics from the 2-0 win against DC United (Stats via Squawka)

The 30-year-old striker created four chances for his teammates and managed to get all four of his shots on target in an impressive all-round performance.

He completed 93% of his passes and had over 50 touches on the ball. Displays like that for the rest of the season will keep the Red Bulls in fine shape.

Wright-Phillips took his goal excellently too as he plucked the ball out of the air before setting himself up for a fine volley. He’ll take confidence from that goal and will hope to build on it when he faces the Columbus Crew next weekend.

How good was Bradley Wright-Phillips this weekend? Was he your Player of the Week too?